In Honor of the New American Idol Premiere, Here are 15 of the Best Contestants to Never Win

American Idol Season 19 just started, and with a myriad of impressive artists already set to compete in Hollywood, it’s bound to be an installment to remember. But before we fully dive into this season, let’s take a moment to look at some of Idol’s all-time best contestants who never won.

  1. 1. Gabby Barrett

    Gabby Barrett American Idol

    Season: 16

    Place: 3rd

    Standout PerformancesLittle Red Wagon,” “I Have Nothing

    I will never forgive America for letting Gabby walk away with third place in a season that she was easily the most talented. Gabby demonstrated that she has the textbook definition of star potential, and with a powerhouse voice, effortlessly energetic performances, and a bubbly personality made for fame, she undoubtedly should have been Season 16’s winner. Nonetheless, Gabby ultimately received the success she deserved; her Billboard Top 100 single “I Hope” was all over radio stations last year, while the rest of her peers from Season 16 have remained relatively unheard of in the music industry.

  2. 2. Colton Dixon

    Colton Dixon American Idol

    Season: 11

    Place: 7th

    Standout Performances: Love the Way You Lie,” “Piano Man

    After being turned away during the Season 10 auditions, Colton came back with a vengeance in Season 11. While his final placement clearly improved significantly, 7th overall still just doesn’t feel good enough for someone as talented as Colton. With his delicate tone and soulful story-telling abilities, Colton is hard to forget.

  3. 3. Jessica Sanchez

    Jessica Sanchez American Idol

    Season: 11

    Place: Runner-up

    Standout Performances: I Will Always Love You,” “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” “My All

    In arguably one of the most controversial finales in Idol history, Sanchez’s powerful, luxurious vocals couldn’t garner enough votes to beat out Phillip Phillips’ folk rock sound. Though Phillips is talented and likeable, many Idol fans — myself included — couldn’t help feeling a bit underwhelmed by the end result. Sanchez displayed some of the greatest control and range the show has ever seen, and one listen to any of her performances throughout the season is proof enough of her immense talent.

  4. 4. Allison Iraheta

    Allison Iraheta

    Season: 8

    Place: 4th

    Standout Performances: Alone,” “Someone to Watch Over Me

    Idol certainly lends its stage to a diverse group of competitors with unique tones and styles each season, but if there’s a glaring gap in their normal lineup, it’s the absence of female rock performers. Iraheta is one of the few in Idol history to dominate this genre, and her fiery red hair, raspy voice, and mature stage presence made her an instant favorite.

  5. 5. Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon

    Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon American Idol

    Season: 17

    Place: 6th

    Standout Performances: Make You Feel My Love,” “Somewhere

    The highly competitive Season 17 prompted the heartbreaking eliminations of many incredibly talented performers. Jeremiah was one of several casualties that came as a result of this circumstance, finishing in 6th place when his stunning vocals would have brought him to finale night in nearly any other season.

  6. 6. Lauren Alaina

    Lauren Alaina American Idol

    Season: 10

    Place: Runner-up

    Standout Performances: The Climb,” “If I Die Young

    Lauren Alaina’s was Idol’s first true all-American sweetheart after the days of Carrie Underwood. With a naturally angelic tone and the perfect personality and look for a country princess, it’s still shocking to me that she couldn’t pull out the win over Scotty Mccreery. I guess something about his unfathomably deep voice must have caused voters to overlook Alaina’s industry potential.

  7. 7. Ashley Hess

    Ashley Hess American Idol

    Season: 17

    Place: Top 14

    Standout Performances: Don’t Know Why,” “Gone Away

    Did Ashley Hess have the talent to win in her inordinately talented season? I’m not sure. But did she deserve to make at least the top 10? Undoubtedly. She showed so much promise in her first few weeks of performances, and with the assistance of Hollywood vocal coaches and professionals, I’m confident that Hess would have shined.

  8. 8. Madison VanDenburg

    Madison VanDenburg American Idol

    Season: 17

    Place: 3rd

    Standout Performances: Fallin,” “All I Ask,” “I Surrender

    Frequently compared to a young Kelly Clarkson, Madison VanDenburg demonstrated during Idol’s 17th season that she is not to be underestimated. I’m at a loss as to why she couldn’t at least make the final two; her powerful vocals are simply unmatched in more recent seasons of Idol.

  9. 9. Francisco Martin

    Francisco Martin American Idol

    Season: 18

    Place: 4th

    Standout Performances: Falling,” “Teenage Dream

    A star-in-the-making robbed from reaching his fullest potential due to Season 18’s pandemic-induced change in programming, Francisco is much like Season 17’s victor Laine Hardy: a young heartthrob with a radio-ready voice (though I think that Francisco happens to have more talent than Laine). Throughout the course of the season, we had the privilege as viewers as watching Francisco grow increasingly confident in himself and bring more stage presence to each of his performances, and in the weeks before the world shut down due to COVID-19, he looked like an obvious winner. But when Francisco and his fellow competitors were forced to perform from their living rooms instead of the Idol stage, everything got thrown off track. I still firmly believe that had the season gone according to plan, Francisco Martin would be the 18th winner of American Idol.

  10. 10. Pia Toscano

    Pia Toscano American Idol

    Season: 10

    Place: 9th

    Standout Performances: All by Myself,” “I’ll Stand By You

    Early on in Season 10, Idol critics and fans spoke of Pia Toscano as a clear frontrunner, a strong contender for the first place crown, so when she didn’t even crack the show’s top eight, viewers were in absolute shock. The controversy surrounding her elimination is entirely justified, as proven by the unfaltering consistency in her performances with every power ballad she sang.

  11. 11. Chris Daughtry

    Chris Daughtry American Idol

    Season: 5

    Place: 4th

    Standout Performances: Hemorrhage,” “I Walk the Line

    A favorite from one of Idol’s earliest seasons, Daughtry proved himself as a top tier vocalist in the hard rock genre. However, his strong performances and loyal following unfortunately weren’t enough for Daughtry to walk away with the title of American Idol.

  12. 12. Elise Testone

    Elise Testone American Idol

    Season: 11

    Place: 6th

    Standout Performances: Whole Lotta Love,” “You & I

    Remember when I talked earlier about Idol having a shortage of female rock stars? Like Allison Iraheta, Elise Testone happens to be one of the few exceptions to this rule. Elise was wildly ambitious in her song selections, tackling classic rock anthems and adventurous Lady Gaga melodies, and it paid off; her rendition of the massively difficult “Whole Lotta Love” is one of the best performances in American Idol history.

  13. 13. Adam Lambert

    Adam Lambert American Idol

    Season: 8

    Place: Runner-up

    Standout Performances: Mad World,” “Ring of Fire

    Why couldn’t season 8 have had two winners? The extraordinarily talented Lambert infamously lost to Kris Allen, another one of American Idol’s all-time finest, in the season’s finale, prompting mass controversy from fans and critics alike. While I love Kris Allen’s voice and believe that he was deserving of his victory, Lambert is simply too majestic and gifted of a performer to be overlooked. Again, if there was ever a time where Idol needed to crown two victors, it would be here.

  14. 14. Haley Reinhart

    Haley Reinhart American Idol

    Season: 10

    Place: 3rd

    Standout Performances: House of the Rising Sun,” “Bennie & the Jets,” “Rolling in the Deep

    Haley Reinhart is easily one of Idol’s greatest talents ever. Her gravely voice and distinctive tone are so special that no female contestant in recent years has even neared her level of talent and prowess. It’s an absolute shame that Reinhart isn’t regarded as a winner.

  15. 15. Walker Burroughs

    Walker Burroughs American Idol

    Season: 17

    Place: Top 8

    Standout Performances: Your Song,” “Have it All,” “Climb Every Mountain,” “Love Like This,” “When She Loved Me,” “How Deep Is Your Love(all of them, really)

    My forever favorite Idol contestant. With an effortlessly charming personality, flawless pitch, and one of the purest vocal tones ever heard on the Idol stage, Walker was nothing short of winner material. I don’t think I can ever forgive Lionel, Katy, and Luke for letting him go.

Keep watching American Idol Season 19 every Sunday at 7 pm to see what new contestants will blow us away this season!